Michigan Association of School Administrators

Service | Leadership | Collaboration | Excellence

Member Blogs

Blog Authors

David Britton, Godfrey-Lee
Scot Graden, Saline
Michele Lemire, Escanaba
Vickie Markavitch, Oakland
Steve Matthews, Novi
Mike Paskewicz, Northview
Dr. Jeanice Kerr Swift, Ann Arbor


MASA members: If you have a blog that you would like us to link please contact pmarrah@gomasa.org

Booster Groups Unite! No Activity Fees for the 2016-17 School Year!

Written by Michele Lemire on Jul 26, 2016
Thanks to the support of the Eskymo Fan Club, the Eskymo Band Boosters, and the Spotlights Organization, the Escanaba Area Public Schools will NOT have to implement an activity fee for the 2016-17 school year! 

These organizations have collectively stepped up as a large, collaborative TEAM! Furthermore, the Fan Club committed enough funding to ensure athletic transportation will be supported. As a budget-balancing move, the district had planned to implement an activity fee for district-funded athletics, jazz band, and the high school musical. Athletic transportation would have been co-funded, with the district picking up some of the cost, and the teams fund-raising for the rest. Thanks to the efforts of these wonderful organizations--the activity fees and partial self-funding of athletic transportation will not have to happen. 

How can community members and alumni help this effort? Join one or all of these fine student-centered organizations! These groups are keeping the Eskymo Pride alive by their solution-based decisions and generosity to benefit all of our students. Thank you Fan Club, Band Booster, and Spotlights members--you not only get an "A" for effort, but also our community's gratitude!
 Eskymo Football and the Eskymo Marching Band!
Scene from "Mary Poppins"--the musical of Fall 2015...

A challenge to this fall's high school students: The State of our Two-Party Political System

Written by David Britton on Jul 24, 2016
“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” ― George WashingtonGiven what we've experienced, particularly over the past twenty-five years, I would eagerly suggest that early this fall all high schools consider aggressively studying the theme of political parties, their history in our nation, and the pros and cons as students see it. With appropriate research, debates, and well-thought-out challenges, we just might witness a call for change in our political system from those whose future depends on it.

Several good resources to start with are right here:

http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washing.asp

http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/16/opinion/alexander-washington-george/

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2016/03/what_george_washington_thought_of_political_parties.html

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2011/07/the-founding-fathers-tried-to-warn-us-about-the-threat-from-a-two-party-system.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLuLK9ZQues


Summer Reading…

Written by Scot Graden on Jul 16, 2016

Summer is well underway and, while my intentions are sincere, I have yet to get very far with my list of books!  

This summer I am reading Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal. McChrystal is a retired 4-star General, who devoted thirty-four years in government service with the US Army. As commander of all US forces in Afghanistan, he managed teams under the most severe of conditions. The book uses examples from recent military missions to highlight the need for organizations to be agile and adaptable.  Much of what McChrystal learned from his military experience is portrayed in the book as solid leadership for any organization.  It points out how old rules no longer apply. Old principles of leadership do not keep pace with the rapid flow of information and the lifestyle of a digital generation.

I am also looking to finish  Brown Dog by Jim Harrison.  Harrison passed away last year and it reminded me that the book follows a character named Brown Dog who rescues a preserved body of an Indian from Lake Superior’s cold waters. He lives a simple life, but overindulges in food and drink while just scraping by in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula’s summer. It’s a novel that is intense and well written, and brings home my love of the UP and the simple things in life.   

The two books that I have chosen to read this summer are in stark contrast to one another, but each has something of great interest to me, first as an organizational leader, and second, as a man that loves the out-of doors and being close to nature. That is the beauty of reading. There is no end to the journeys that we can take through the written word and the mind’s imagination. Summer is a wonderful time for students (and adults!) to read.  The Saline District Library is an incredible community asset – stop by and check out their collection! A young adult fiction section shelves titles that will interest even the most reluctant reader. The District Library has a vast collection of eBooks and downlo
adable titles for those that prefer to listen to good literature. A library card is one of the best investments that you can make in your child’s future.

 

Everyday is a day to learn something new. Reading gives everyone that opportunity.

 



Killing a Profession - Part Two

Written by Steve Matthews on Jul 15, 2016
I visit many classrooms. I see teachers; committed, engaging, serious, funny, caring, compassionate, forceful, smart, brave, thoughtful teachers.
And yet, I fear, the profession of teaching is dying.

This isn't the first time that these thoughts have crept into my mind. As it was then, it is true today. In my opinion, there are those who oppose public education and want to kill the profession. 

How do you kill a profession?

Disrespect: Anyone can teach!

Teachers work hard to become certified. Throughout Michigan, we have outstanding colleges and universities that help students interested in becoming public school teachers learn the craft of teaching. Michigan State University, one of the leading Colleges of Education in the United States - consistently ranked at or near the top in both elementary and secondary education - requires a bachelor's degree plus an additional full year unpaid internship.

Five years to learn your content and to learn how to teach. 

Yet the Michigan legislature passed and Governor Snyder signed legislation that allows noncertificated and nonendorsed people to teach in the Detroit Public Schools. The legislation specifically states the following:

Allow the community district to engage a full-time or part-time noncertificated, nonendorsed teacher if the appropriate official in the district determines that, due to the individual's combination of education and experience, it would be appropriate and in the best interests of the pupils of the community district; and provide that if the individual completed three years of successful classroom teaching, that experience would have to be used and student teaching would be waived for the purpose of receiving a provisional teaching certificate.
By passing this law the legislature, whether it was intentional or not, communicates to every teacher in the state of Michigan that their degree, their certification, their work accounts for nothing. It communicates "anyone can do your job."

Dr. Pasi Sahlberg, a well-known Finnish educational expert, calls this "de-professionalism." This idea promotes the idea that anyone can teach.

Some would argue that this bill does not communicate that at all. They would argue that what this bill allows is a well-qualified economist to come in and teach economics. I would disagree!

The trouble with that line of reasoning is that it presumes that the economics degree means something but an education degree does not. That line of reasoning suggests that an economics degree confers that you know economics but an education degree does not confer anything.

Secondly just because a person knows economics does not mean that they know how to teach high school or middle school or elementary age students. Does an economist know how to engage students, challenge students, help students who struggle with English as their primary language? Does an economist know how background and previous knowledge impacts a student's ability to learn new knowledge or how to overcome incorrect prior knowledge that filters how new information is attended to and interpreted?

Let's assume the economist is a college professor. Surely a college economics professor can teach high school students economics? After all what difference is there between a 19 year old college student and a 15 year old high school sophomore?

How you answer that question reveals whether or not you should be teaching in public schools!

This new legislation in Michigan disrespects those who have demonstrated a commitment to our children and who have studied so that they can teach our children well.

How do you kill a profession? Disrespect the profession.


Demonize: Public schools are too expensive

"Private schools could save Michigan $750 million a year" blared the headline. Instead of paying for public schools let's just send students to private schools which can educate students for far less money. This story promotes the idea that public schools are too expensive and that you could provide the same level of education in a private school.


It is true that the tuition for a private school, while it varies widely, is often less than the per-pupil cost that the state provides public schools.  (As a cautionary note on the true difference in cost this article states: "most private schools need funds beyond tuition to run. Survey respondents reported that the total cost to educate one student is nearly 25 percent greater than the rate charged to families, on average.")

How can private schools be less expensive to operate?

  • Private schools rely on part-time teachers in many instances.
  • Private schools often pay their teachers significantly less than public school teachers make.
  • Private schools often do not provide special education services.
  • Private schools often have shorter school years - thus costs are less.
By promoting the idea that public schools are too expensive, public schools are seen as wasteful and reckless.

How do you kill a profession? Demonize the profession.

Demoralize: Reduce hours of work into one number 


The teachers that I know, the teachers that work in my district, are committed, caring, creative, compassionate, intelligent, focused people. They know what they are doing. They work hard for their students. They take it personally when students struggle and they lose sleep when students don't appear to be learning.  They take great pride in creating meaningful and engaging lessons.

Yet, their whole value is captured in a single test score (in Michigan it is the M-STEP state assessment) revealed in the paper on a single day.

The Michigan state legislature has passed legislation that requires 40% of a teacher's evaluation to be tied to student growth - a single test score.

The nuances of learning, the ups and downs, the give and take, the hard work of teaching  - all of it reduced to one single measure.

In my district we will work to create a more comprehensive and holistic method for determining teacher effectiveness. I have great confidence that we will create a meaningful and significant counter measure that will more accurately identify the impact of a teacher in the classroom and of the work a teacher engages in with their students.

But will it matter? It is hard to tell.

How do you kill a profession? Demoralize those who willing choose the work.

I believe in public education.  

I want public schools to work. But sometimes I worry that there are more people who want to kill the profession!

Good news & Areas of Focus from our School Quality and Climate Survey

Written by Scot Graden on Jul 14, 2016

Sometimes you just need to take a moment to celebrate good news.  

When we asked students, parents, and employees for feedback on the quality of Saline Area Schools, we knew we would identify areas where we could improve next school year.

What we learned is that our community is overwhelmingly pleased with our schools.

Of the almost 3,000 people who took our School Quality and Climate Survey, 96 percent of parents, 90 percent of staff members, and 90 percent of students rated their school as excellent or good. And 65 percent of parents said their child’s school is excellent!

We also learned that parents and students are overwhelmingly positive about the technology access in our schools, that students and employees have strong relationships, and that employees believe we set high learning standards for all students.

But those findings don’t mean we don’t have work to do.

Only slightly more than half of participating students said their teachers successfully show them how their lessons relate to life outside of school. We want our curriculum to come alive for our students, so we’ll continue to work to make these connections.

We also saw the fewest number of positive responses to questions about safety and behavior. Notably, a large number of participants said they didn’t know about our safety procedures or our bullying prevention and response programs.

That tells me we need to be doing more to make you aware of how we’re ensuring that our schools are a safe place for students.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this process. You’re helping us turn our students into lifelong learners who graduate with the skills they need to succeed — no matter their chosen path.

I will be sharing the formal results at the August 9th Board of Education meeting, but I wanted to share these insights now with the community.

If you didn’t have a chance to participate in this survey, or you have additional thoughts to share, we’re always listening with Let’s Talk! I’d love to hear what you have to say. Click here to start a conversation today!